It was one of the peculiar whims of Octave de Frontignan never to have an even number of guests at his dinner table. His soirees indeed were attended by hundreds, but his dinner parties rarely exceeded seven (including himself), and in many cases he only invited two. On this especial occasion the only guest asked to meet the Abbe Gerard was the celebrated diplomatist and millionaire the Prince Paul Pomerantseff. This most extraordinary personage had for the past six years kept Europe in a constant state of excitement by reason of his munificence and power. Brought up under the direct personal supervision of the Emperor of Russia, he had done a little of everything and succeeded in all he had undertaken. He had distinguished himself as a diplomatist and as a soldier, and had left traces of his indomitable will in many State papers as on many an enemy's face during the period of the Crimean war. In London, but perhaps more especially in "the shires," his face was well known and liked. Duchesses' daughters had sighed for him, but in vain; and the continuance of his celibacy appeared to be as certain as the splendor of his fortune. The Abbe Gerard had known him for many years, and proved no exception to the general rule, for although their friendship had never ripened into great intimacy, there was perhaps no man in the wide circle of his acquaintance in whose society the priest took a more lively pleasure.
"Late as usual!" cried the Duke, as Gerard hurried into the room ten minutes after the appointed hour. "Prince, if you were so unpunctual in your diplomatic duties as the Abbe is in his social (and I fear in his spiritual!), where would the world be?"
The Abbe stopped short, pulled out his watch, and looked at it with a comically contrite air.
"Only ten minutes late, and I am sure when you think of the amount of business I have to transact you can afford to forgive me," he said as he advanced and shook hands warmly with his friends.
"You have no idea," he continued, throwing himself lazily down upon a lounge—"you have no idea of the amount of folly I am forced to listen to in a day! Every woman whose bad temper has got her into trouble with her husband, and every man whose stupidity has led him into quarrelling with his wife—one and all they come to me, pour out their misfortunes in my ears, and expect me to arrange their affairs."
The servant announcing dinner interrupted the poor Abbe's complaints.
"I tell you what I should do," said Pomerantseff when they were seated at table. "I should say to every man and woman who came to me on such errands, 'My dear friend, my business is with your spiritual welfare, and with that alone. The doctor and solicitor must take care of your worldly concerns. It is my duty to insure your eternal felicity when the tedium of delirium tremens and the divorce court is all over, and that is really all one man can do.'"
"By the way, talking of spiritual matters," interrupted the Duke, "Pomerantseff has been telling me his experience with a man you detest, Abbe."
"I detest no man."
"I can only judge from your own words," rejoined Frontignan. "Did you not tell me years ago that you thought Home a more serious evil than the typhoid fever?"
"Ah, Home the medium!" cried Gerard in great disgust. "I admit you are right. It is not possible, Prince, that you encourage Frontignan in his absurd spiritualism."
The Prince smiled gravely.
"I do not pretend to encourage any man in anything, mon cher Abbe."
"But you cannot believe in it!"
"I do most certainly believe in it."
"Dieu de Dieu!" exclaimed Gerard. "What folly! What are we all coming to?"
"It has always struck me as remarkable," said the Duke, "that with all your taste for the curious and unknown, you have never been tempted into investigating the matter, Abbe."
"I am, as you say, a lover of the curious," replied the priest, "but not of such empty trash as spiritualism. I have enough cares with the realities of this world without bringing upon myself the misery of investigating the possibilities of the next."
"That is a sentiment worthy of Abbe Dubois," said Pomerantseff laughing, and then the Duke, suddenly making some inquiry relative to the train which was to take him and the Prince to Brunoy on a shooting expedition the following morning, the subject for the nonce was dropped. It was destined, however, to be revived later in the evening, for when after dinner they were comfortably ensconced in the tabagie, Frontignan, who had been greatly excited by some extraordinary manifestations related to him by the Prince before the arrival of the Abbe, said abruptly:
"Now, Gerard, you must really let us convert you to spiritualism."
"Never!" cried the Abbe.
"It is absurd for you to disbelieve, for you know nothing about it, since you have never been willing to attend a seance."
"I feel it is absurd, and that is enough."
"I myself do not exactly believe in spirits," said Frontignan thoughtfully.
"A la bonne heure! Of course not!" cried the Abbe. "You see, Prince, he is not quite mad after all!"
The Prince said nothing.
"I cannot doubt the existence of some extraordinary phenomena," continued the young Duke thoughtfully; "for I cannot bring myself to such an exquisite pitch of philosophical imbecility as to doubt my own senses; but, to my thinking, the exact nature of the phenomena, remains as yet an open question. I have a theory of my own about it, and although it may be absurd and fantastical, it is certainly no more so than that which would have us believe the spirits of the dear old lazy dead come back to the scenes of their lives and miseries to pull our noses and play tambourines."
"And may I ask you," inquired the Prince, with a touch of sarcasm in his voice, "what this theory of yours may be?"
"I will give you," said the Duke, ignoring the sneer, and stretching himself back in his chair as he sent a ring of smoke curling daintily toward the ceiling—"I will give you with great pleasure the result of my reflection about this matter. It is my belief that the things—the tangible things we create, or rather cause to appear, come from within ourselves, and are portions of ourselves. We produce them, in the first instance, generally with hands linked, but afterward when our nervous organizations are more harmonized to them, they come to us of themselves, and even against our wills. It is my belief that these are what we term our passions and our emotions, to whose existence the electric fluid and nervous ecstasy we cause to circulate and induce by sitting with hands linked, merely gives a tangible and corporeal expression. We all know that grief, joy, remorse, and many other sensations and emotions can kill as surely and in many cases as quickly as an assassin's dagger, and it is a well known scientific fact that there are certain nerves in the hand between certain fingers which have a distinct rapport with the mind, and by which the mind can be controlled. Since this is so, why is it that under certain given conditions, such as sitting with hands linked—that thus sitting, and while the electric fluid, drawn out by the contact of our hands, forms a powerful medium between the inner and the outward being—why is it, I say, that these strong emotions I have mentioned should not take advantage of this strange river flowing to and fro between the conceptional and the visual to float before us for a time, and give us an opportunity of seeing and touching them, who influence our every action in life? It is my belief that I can shake hands with my emotions; that my conscience can become tangible and pinch my ear just as surely as it can and does keep people awake at night by agitating their nervous system, or in other words, by mentally pinching their ears."
"That is certainly a very fantastical idea," said the Abbe smiling. "But if you have ever seen any of your emotions, what do they look like? I should like to see my hasty temper sitting beside me for a minute; I should take advantage of his being corporealized to pay him back in his own coin, and give him a good thrashing."
"It is difficult," said the Duke gravely, "to recognize one's emotions when brought actually face to face with them, although they have been living in us all our lives—turning our hair gray or pulling it out; making us stout or lean, upright or bent over. Moreover, our minor emotions, except in cases where the medium is remarkably powerful, outwardly express themselves to us as perfumes, or sometimes in lights. I have reason, however, to believe I have recognized my conscience."
"I should have thought he'd have been too sleepy to move out!" laughed the Prince.
"That just shows how wrongly one man judges another," said Octave lazily, without earnestness, but with a certain something in his tone that betokened he was dealing with realities. "You probably think that I am not much troubled with a conscience; whereas the fact is that my conscience, with a strong dash of remorse in it, is a very keen one. Many years ago a certain episode changed the whole color and current of my life inwardly to myself, although of course outwardly I was much the same. Now, this episode aroused my conscience to a most extraordinary degree, and I never 'sit' now without seeing a female figure; with a face like that of the heroine of my episode, dressed in a queer robe, woven of every possible color except white, who shudders and trembles as she passes before me, holding in her arms large sheets of glass, through which dim Bohemian glass colors pass flickering every moment."
"What a very disagreeable thing to see this weather," said the Abbe—"everything shuddering and shaking!"
"Have you ever discovered why she goes about like the wife of a glazier?" asked the Prince.
"For a long time I could not make out what they could be, these large panes of glass with variegated colors passing through them; but now I think I know."
"They are dreams waiting to be fitted in."
"Bravo!" cried the Abbe. "That is really a good idea! If I had only the pen of Charles Nodier, what a charming feuilleton I could write about all this!"
Pomerantseff laid his hand affectionately on the Duke's shoulder. "Mon cher ami," he said with a grave smile, "believe me, you are wholly at fault in your speculations. Gerard here of course, naturally enough, since he has never been willing to 'sit,' thinks we are both madmen, and that the whole thing is folly; but you and I, who have sat and seen many marvellous manifestations, know that it is not folly. Take the word of a man who has had greater experience in the matter than yourself, and who is himself a most powerful medium: the theory you have just enunciated is utterly false."
"Prove that it is false."
"I cannot prove it, but wait and see."
"Nay; I have given it all up now. I will not meddle with spiritualism again. It unhinged my nerves and destroyed my peace of mind while I was investigating it."
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
"Prince, leave him alone," said the Abbe smiling. "His theory is a great deal more sensible than yours; and if I could bring myself to believe that at your seances any real phenomenon does take place (which of course no sane person can), I should be much more apt to accept Frontignan's interpretation of the matter. Let us follow it out a little further, for the mere sake of talking nonsense. Doubtless the dominant passion of a man would be the most likely to appear—that is to say, would be the most tangible."
"That would depend," replied the Duke, "upon circumstances. If the phenomenon should take place while the man is alone, doubtless it would be so; but if while at a seance attended by many people, the apparition would be the product of the master passions of all, and thus it is that many of the visions which appear at seances where the sitters are not harmonized are most remarkable and unrecognizable anomalies."
"I thought I understood from Mme. de Girardin that certain spirits always appeared."
"Pooh, pooh! Mme. de Girardin never went deep enough into the matter. The most ravishing vision I ever saw was when I fancied I saw love."
"What? Love! An emanation from yourself?"
The Duke sighed.
"Ah, that is what proved to me that what I saw could not be love. That sentiment has been too long extinguished in me to awaken to a corporeal expression."
"What made you think it was love?" asked Pomerantseff.
"It was a white dove with something I cannot express that was human about it. I felt ineffably happy while it was with me."
"Your theory is false, I tell you," said the Russian. "What you saw probably was love."
"Then it would have been God!" cried the Abbe.
"I believe with Novalis that 'love is the highest reality,'" replied Gerard; then he added with a laugh, "No, Duke, what you saw was an emanation from yourself—a master passion. It was the corporeal embodiment of your love of pigeon-shooting!"
"Perhaps," laughed the Duke.
"I tell you what, mon ami," said Pomerantseff rising, as he saw the Abbe making preparations to depart. "I am glad that my appetite, corporealized and separated from my discretion, is not in your wine cellar. Your Johannisberg would suffer!"
"Prince, you must drive me home," said the Abbe. "I cannot get into a draughty cab at this hour of the night."
"Tres volontiers! Good night, Duke. Remember to-morrow morning, at half-past nine, at the Gare de Lyon," said the Prince.
"Remember to-morrow night at half-past ten, at Mme. de Langeac's," bawled the Abbe; and so they left. The young nobleman hurried down the cold staircase and into the Prince's brougham.
"What a pity," exclaimed the Abbe when they were once fairly started, "that a man with all the mind of De Frontignan should give himself up to such wild ideas and dreams!"
"You are not very complimentary," rejoined the other smiling gravely; "for you know that so far as believing in spirits I am as bad if not worse than he is."
"Ah, but you are jesting."
"On my honor as a gentleman, I am not jesting. See here." As he spoke Pomerantseff seized the Abbe's hand. "You heard me tell the Duke just now that I believed he had seen the spirit of love. Well, the sermon you preached the day before yesterday, which all Paris is talking about, and in which you endeavored to prove the personality of the devil to be a fact, was truer than perhaps you believed when you preached it. Why should not Frontignan have seen the spirit of love when I know and have seen the devil?"
"Mon ami, you are insane!" cried Gerard. "Why, the devil does not exist!"
"I tell you I have seen him—the God of all Evil, the Prince of Desolation!" cried the other in an excited voice. "And what is more, I will show him to you!"
"Show the devil to me!" exclaimed the Abbe, half terrified, half amused. "Why, you are out of your mind!"
The Prince laid his other hand upon the arm of the Abbe, who could feel he was trembling with excitement.
"You know my address," he said in a quick, passionate voice. "When you feel—as I tell you you surely will—desirous of investigating this further, send for me, and I promise, on my honor as a gentleman, to show you the devil, so that you cannot doubt. I will do this on one condition."
The Abbe felt almost faint; for apart from the wildness of the words thus abruptly and unexpectedly addressed to him, the hand of the Prince which lay upon his own, as if to keep him still, seemed to be pouring fire and madness into him. He tried to withdraw it, but the other grasped the fingers tight.
"On one condition," repeated Pomerantseff in a lower tone.
"What condition?" murmured the poor Abbe.
"That you trust yourself entirely to me until we reach the place of meeting."
"Prince, let go my hand! You are hurting me! I will promise to do as you say when I want to go to your infernal meeting."
He wrenched his hand away, pulled down the carriage window and let the cold night air in.
"Pomerantseff, you are a madman; you are dangerous. Why the devil did you grasp my hand in that way? My arm is numb."
The Prince laughed.
"It is only electricity. I was determined, since you doubted the existence of the devil, to make you promise to come and see him."
"I never promised!" exclaimed the Abbe. "I only promised to trust myself to you if the horrible desire should ever seize me to investigate your mad words further. But you need not be afraid of that. God forbid I should indulge in such folly!"
The Prince smiled.
"God has nothing to do with this," he remarked simply. "You will come."
The carriage had now turned up the street in which the Abbe lived, and they were but a few doors from his house.
"My dear Prince," said Gerard earnestly, "let me say a few words to you at parting. You know I am not a bigot, so that your words—which many might think blasphemous—I care nothing about; but remember we are in the Paris of the nineteenth century, not in the Paris of Cazotte, and that we are eminently practical nowadays. Had you asked me to go with you to see some curious atrocity, no matter how horrible, I might, were it interesting, have accepted; but when you invite me to go with you to see the devil you really must excuse me; it is too absurd."
"Very well," replied Prince Pomerantseff. "Of course I know you will come; but think the matter over well. Remember, I promise to show the devil to you so that you can never doubt of his personality again. This is not one of the wonders of electro-biology, but simply a fact: the devil exists, and you shall see him. Good night."
Gerard, as he turned into his porte cochere, and made his way up stairs, was more struck than perhaps he confessed even to himself by the quiet tone of certainty and assurance in which the Prince uttered these words; and on reaching his apartment he sat down by the blazing fire, lighted a cigarette, and began considering in all its bearings what he felt convinced was a most remarkable case of mania and mental derangement. In the first place, was the Prince deceived himself, or merely endeavoring to deceive another? The latter theory he at once rejected; not only the character and breeding of the man, but his nervous earnestness about this matter, rendered such a supposition impossible. Then he himself was deceived—and yet how improbable! Gerard could remember nothing in what he knew or had heard of the Prince that could lead him to suppose his brain was of the kind charlatans and pseudo-magicians can successfully bewitch. On the contrary, although of a country in which the grossest superstitions are rife, he himself had led such an active, healthy life, partly in Russia and partly in England, that his brain could hardly be suspected of derangement. An intimate and practical acquaintance with most of the fences in "the shires," and all the leading statesmen of Europe, can hardly be considered compatible with a morbid disposition and superstitious nature.
No; the Abbe confessed to himself that the man who deceived Pomerantseff must have been of no ordinary ability. That he had been deceived was beyond all question, but it was certainly marvellous. In practical matters, the Abbe was even forced to confess to himself, he would unhesitatingly take the Prince's advice, sooner than trust to his own private judgment; and yet here was this model of keen, healthy, worldly wisdom gravely inviting him to meet the devil face to face, and not only this, but promising that it should be no unintelligible freak of electro-biology, but as a simple fact. Gerard smoked thirty cigarettes without coming to any satisfactory solution of the enigma. What if after all he, the Abbe Gerard, for once should abandon the line of conduct he had laid down for himself, and, to satisfy his curiosity, and perhaps with the chance of restoring to its proper equilibrium a most valuable and comprehensive mind, overlook his determination never to endanger his peace of mind by meddling with the affairs of spiritualists? He could picture to himself the whole thing: they would doubtless be in a darkened room; an apparition clothed in red, and adorned with the traditional horns, would make its appearance, and there would very likely be no apparent evidence of fraud. Even supposing some portion of the absurd theory enunciated by the Duke de Frontignan were true, and some strange thing begotten of electric fluid and overwrought imagination were to make its appearance, that could hardly be considered by a sane man as being equivalent to an interview with the devil. The Abbe told himself that it would be most likely impossible to detect any fraud, but he felt convinced that should the Prince find this phenomenon pooh-poohed, after a full investigation, by a man of sense and culture, his faith in it would be shaken, and ere long he would come to despise it.
All the remarkable stories he had heard about spiritualism from Mme. de Gerardin and others, and which he hitherto paid no heed to, came back to-night to the Abbe as he sat ruminating over the extraordinary offer just made him. He had heard of dead people appearing, and that was sufficiently absurd, for he did not believe in a future life; but the devil——The idea was preposterous! Poor Luther, indeed, might throw his ink-pot at him, but no enlightened Roman Catholic priest could be expected to believe in his existence, no matter how much he might be forced—for obvious reasons—to preach about it, and represent it as a fact in sermons. Yes; he would unhesitatingly consent to investigate the matter, and discover the fraud he felt certain was lurking somewhere, but that the Prince seemed to feel so certain of his consent; and he feared by thus fulfilling an idly expressed prophecy to plunge the unhappy man still deeper in his slough of superstition. One thing was certain, the Abbe told himself with a smile—nothing on earth or from heaven or hell—if the two latter absurdities existed—could make him believe in the devil. No, not even if the devil should come and take him by the hand, and all the hosts of heaven flock to testify to his identity. By this time, having smoked and thought himself into a state of blasphemous idiocy, our worthy divine threw away his cigarette, went to bed, and read himself into a nightmare with a volume of Von Helmont. The following morning still found him perplexed as to what course to adopt in this matter. As luck (or shall we say—the devil?) would have it, while he was trifling in a listless way with his breakfast, there called to see him the only priest in whose judgment, purity, and religious fervor he had any confidence. It is probable, to such an extent was his mind engrossed by the subject, that no matter who might have called, he would have discussed the extraordinary conduct of Prince Pomerantseff with him; but insomuch as the visitor chanced to be the very man best calculated to direct his judgment in the matter, he, without unnecessary delay, laid the whole affair before him.
"You see, mon cher," said Gerard in conclusion, "my position is just this: It appears to me that this person, whom I will not name, has been trifled with by Home and other so-called spiritualists to such an extent that his mind is really in danger. Now, although of course we are forbidden to have any dealings with such people, or to participate in any way in their infamous, foolish, and unholy practices, surely it would be the act of a Christian if a clear, healthy-minded man were to expose the fraud, and thus save to society a man of such transcendent ability as my friend. Moreover, should I determine to accept his mad invitation, I hardly think I could be said to participate in any of the scandalous and perhaps blasphemous rites he may have to perform to bring about the supposed result. What do you think of it, and what do you advise?"
His friend walked up and down the room for a few minutes, turning the matter over carefully in his mind, and then, coming up to where the Abbe lay lazily stretched upon a lounge, he said earnestly,
"Mon cher Henri, I am very glad you have asked me about this. It appears to me that your duty is quite clear. You perhaps have it in your power, as you yourself have seen, to save, not only, as you say, a mind, but what I wish I could feel you prized more highly—a soul. You must accept the invitation."
The Abbe rose in delight at having found another man who, taking the responsibility off his shoulders, commanded him as a duty to indulge his ardent curiosity.
"But," continued the other in a solemn voice, "before accepting, you must do one thing."
The Abbe threw himself back on the lounge in disgust.
"Oh, pray, of course," he exclaimed petulantly. "I am quite aware of that."
"Not only pray, but fast, and that for seven days at least, my dear brother."
This was a very disagreeable view of the matter, but the Abbe was equal to the occasion. After a pause, during which he appeared absorbed in religious reflection, he rose, and taking his friend by the hand—
"You are right," said he, "as you always are. Although of course I know the evil spirit cannot harm an officer of God's Holy Catholic church, even supposing, for the sake of argument, my poor friend can invoke Satan, yet if I am to do any good, if I am to save my friend from destruction, I must be armed with extraordinary grace, and this, as you truly divine, can only come by fasting."
The other wrung his hand warmly. "I knew you would see it in its proper light, my dear Henri," he said, "and now I will leave you to recover your peace of mind by religious meditation."
The Abbe smiled gravely, and let his friend depart. The following letter was the result of this edifying interview between the two divines:
"MON CHER PRINCE: No doubt you will feel very triumphant when you learn that my object in writing this letter is to accept your offer of presentation to Sa Majeste; but I do not care whether you choose to consider this yielding to what is only in part whimsical curiosity a triumph or no. I will not write to you any cut-and-dried platitudes about good and evil, but I frankly assure you that one of the strongest reasons which induces me to go with you on this fool's errand is a belief that I can discover the absurdity and imposture, and cure you of a hallucination which is unworthy of you.
"Tout a vous,
For two days he received no reply to this letter, nor did he happen, in the interval, to meet the Prince in society, although he heard of him from De Frontignan and others; but on the third day the following note was brought to him:
"MON CHER AMI: There is no question of triumph, any more than there is of deception. I will call for you this evening at half-past nine. You must remember your promise to trust yourself entirely to me.
"Cordialement a vous,
So the matter was now arranged, and he, the Abbe Gerard, the renowned preacher of the celebrated —— church, was to meet that very night, by special appointment, at half-past nine, the Prince of Darkness; and this in January, in Paris—at the height of the season in the capital of civilization. As may be well imagined, during the remainder of that eventful day, until the hour of the Prince's arrival, the Abbe did not enjoy his customary placidity. A secretary of the Turkish embassy who called at four found him engaged in a violent discussion with one of the Rothschilds about the early Christians' belief in demons, as shown by Tertullian and others, while Lord Middlesex, who called at half-past five, found he had captured Faure, installed him at the piano, and was inducing him to hum snatches from "Don Juan." When his dinner hour arrived, having given orders to his valet to admit no one lest he should be discovered not fasting, he hastily swallowed a few mouthfuls, fortified himself with a couple of glasses of Chartreuse verte, and lighting an enormous "imperial," awaited the coming of the messenger of Satan. At half-past nine o'clock precisely the Prince arrived. He was in full evening dress (but contrary to his usual custom, wearing no decoration or ribbon in his buttonhole), and his face was of a deadly pallor.
"Mon Dieu!" exclaimed the Abbe, "What is the matter with you, mon cher? You are looking very ill. We had better postpone our visit."
"No; it is nothing," replied the Prince gravely. "Let us be off without delay. In matters of this sort waiting is unbearable."
The Abbe rose, and rang the bell for his hat and cloak. The appearance of the Prince, his evident agitation, and his unfeigned impatience, which seemed to betoken terror, were far from reassuring, but the Abbe promptly quelled any misgivings he might have felt. Suddenly a thought struck him; a thought which certainly his brain would never have engendered had it been in its normal condition.
"Perhaps I had better change my dress, and go en pekin?" he inquired anxiously.
The ghost of a sarcastic smile flitted across the Prince's face, as he replied,
"No, certainly not. Your soutane will be in every way acceptable. Come, let us be off."
The Abbe made a grimace, put on his hat, flung his cloak around his shoulders, and followed the Prince down stairs. He remarked with some surprise that the carriage awaiting them was not the Prince's.
"I have hired a carriage for the occasion," remarked Pomerantseff quietly, noticing Gerard's glance of surprise. "I am unwilling that my servants should suspect anything of this."
They entered the carriage, and the coachman, evidently instructed beforehand where to go, drove off without delay. The Prince immediately pulled down the blinds, and taking a silk pocket handkerchief from his pocket, began quietly to fold it lengthwise.
"I must blindfold you, mon cher," he remarked simply, as if announcing the most ordinary fact.
"Diable!" cried the Abbe, now becoming a little nervous. "This is very unpleasant! I believe you are the devil yourself."
"Remember your promise," said Pomerantseff, as he carefully covered his friend's eyes with the pocket handkerchief, and effectually precluded the possibility of his seeing anything until he should remove the bandage. After this nothing was said. The Abbe heard the Prince pull up the blind, open the window, and tell the coachman to drive faster. He endeavored to discover when they turned to the right, and when to the left, but in a few minutes got bewildered and gave it up in despair. At one time he felt certain they were crossing the river.
"I wish I had not come," he murmured to himself. "Of course the whole thing is folly, but it is a great trial to the nerves, and I shall probably be upset for many days."
On they drove; the time seemed interminable to the Abbe.
"Are we near our destination yet?" he inquired at last.
"Not very far off," replied the other, in what seemed to Gerard a most sepulchral tone of voice. At length, after a drive of perhaps half an hour, but which seemed to the Abbe double that time, Pomerantseff murmured in a low tone, and with a profound sigh which sounded almost like a sob, "Here we are," and at that moment the Abbe felt the carriage was turning, and heard the horses' hoofs clatter on what he imagined to be the stones of a courtyard. The carriage stopped. Pomerantseff opened the door himself, and assisted the blindfolded priest to alight.
"There are five steps," he said as he held the Abbe by the arm. "Take care."
The Abbe stumbled up the five steps. They had now entered a house, and Gerard imagined to himself it was probably some old hotel, like the Hotel Pimodan, where Gautier, Beaudelaire, and others at one time were wont to assemble to disperse the cares of life in the fumes of opium. When they had proceeded a few yards, Pomerantseff warned him that they were about to ascend a staircase, and up many shallow steps they went, the Abbe regretting every instant more and more that he had allowed his vulgar curiosity to lead him into an adventure which could be productive of nothing but ridicule and shattered nerves. When at length they had reached the top of the stairs, the Prince guided him by the arm through what the Abbe imagined to be a hall, opened a door, closed and locked it after them, walked on again, opened another door, which he closed and locked likewise, and over which the Abbe heard him pull a heavy curtain. The Prince then took him again by the arm, advanced him a few steps, and said in a low whisper, "Remain quietly standing where you are, and do not attempt to remove the pocket handkerchief until you hear voices."
The Abbe folded his arms and stood motionless while he heard the Prince walk away a few yards. It was evident to the unfortunate priest that the room in which he stood was not dark, for although he could see nothing, owing to the pocket handkerchief, which had been bound most skilfully over his eyes, there was a sensation of being in strong light, and his cheeks and hands felt, as it were, illuminated. Suddenly a horrible sound sent a chill of terror through him—a gentle noise as of naked flesh touching the waxed floor—and before he could recover from the shock occasioned by the sound, the voices of many men, voices of men groaning or wailing in some hideous ecstasy, broke the stillness, crying—"Father of all sin and crime, Prince of all despair and anguish, come to us, we implore thee!"
The Abbe, wild with terror, tore off the pocket handkerchief. He found himself in a large, old-fashioned room, panelled up to the lofty ceiling with oak, and filled with great light, shed from innumerable tapers fitted into sconces on the wall—light which, though naturally soft, was almost fierce by reason of its greatness, for it proceeded from at least two hundred tapers. He had then been after all right in his conjectures: he was evidently in a chamber of some one of the many old-fashioned hotels which are to be seen in the Ile St. Louis, and indeed in all the antiquated quarters of Paris. It was reassuring, at all events, to know one was not in Hades, and to feel tolerably certain that a sergeant de ville could not be many yards distant. All this passed into his comprehension like a flash of lightning, for hardly had the bandage left his eyes ere his whole attention was riveted upon a group before him.
Twelve men—Pomerantseff among the number—of all ages, from twenty-five to fifty-five, all dressed in evening dress, and all, so far as one could judge at such a moment, men of culture and refinement, knelt or rather lay nearly prone upon the floor, with hands linked. They were bowing forward and kissing the floor—which might account for the strange sound heard by Gerard—and their faces were illuminated with a light of hellish ecstasy—half distorted as if in pain, half smiling as if in triumph. The Abbe's eyes instinctively sought out the Prince. He was the last on the left hand side, and while his left hand grasped that of his neighbor, his right was sweeping nervously over the floor as if seeking to animate the boards. His face was more calm than those of the others, but of a deadly pallor, and the violet tints about the mouth and temples showed he was suffering from intense emotion. They were all, each one after his own fashion, praying aloud, or rather moaning, as they writhed in ecstatic adoration.
"Oh, Father of Evil, come to us!"
"Oh, Prince of Endless Desolation, who sitteth by the bed of suicides, we adore thee!"
"Oh, creator of eternal anguish! oh, king of cruel pleasures and famishing desires, we worship thee!"
"Come to us, with thy foot upon the hearts of widows, thy hair lucid with the slaughter of innocence, and thy brow wreathed with the chaplet of despair!"
The heart of the Abbe turned cold and sick as these beings, hardly human by reason of their great mental exaltation, swayed before him.
Suddenly—or rather the full conception of the fact was sudden, for the influence had been gradually stealing over him—he felt a terrible coldness, a coldness more piercing than any he had before experienced even in Russia; and with the coldness there came to him the certain knowledge of the presence of some new being in the room. Withdrawing his eyes from the semi-circle of men, who did not seem to be aware of his, the Abbe's, presence, and who ceased not in their blasphemies, he turned them slowly around, and as he did so they fell upon a newcomer, a thirteenth, who seemed to spring into existence from the air before his very eyes.
He was a young man of apparently twenty, very tall, with bright golden hair falling from his forehead like a girl's. He was dressed in evening dress, and his cheeks were flushed as if with wine or pleasure, but from his eyes there gleamed a look of inexpressible sadness, of intense despair. The group of men had evidently become aware of his presence at the same moment, for they all fell prone upon the floor adoring, and their words were now no longer words of invocation, but words of praise and worship. The Abbe was frozen with horror; there was no room in his breast for the lesser emotion of fear; indeed, the horror was so great and all-absorbing as to charm and hold him spellbound. He could not remove his eyes from the thirteenth, who stood before him calmly, with a faint smile playing over his intellectual and aristocratic face—a smile which only added to the intensity of the despair gleaming in his clear blue eyes. Gerard was struck first with the sadness, then with the beauty, and then with the intellectual vigor of that marvellous countenance. The expression was not unkind: haughtiness and pride could be read only in the high-bred features, short upper lip, and nobly moulded limbs; for the face betokened, save for the flush upon the cheeks, only great sadness. The eyes were fixed upon those of Gerard, and he felt their soft, subtle, intense light penetrate into every nook and cranny of his soul and being. This being simply stood and gazed upon the priest as the worshippers grew more wild, more blasphemous, more cruel. The Abbe could think of nothing but the face before him, and the great desolation that lay folded over it as a veil. He could think of no prayer, although he could remember there were prayers. Was this despair—the despair of a man drowning in sight of land—being shed into him from the sad blue eyes? Was it despair, or was it death? Ah, no; not death. Death was peaceful, and this was violent and lively. Was there no refuge, no mercy, no salvation anywhere? Perhaps, but he could not remember while those sad blue eyes still gazed upon him. He could not remember, and still he could not entirely forget. He felt that help would come to him if he sought it, and yet he could hardly tell how to seek it. Moreover, by degrees the blue eyes—it seemed as if their color, their great blueness, had some fearful power—began pouring into him a more hideous pleasure. It was the ecstasy of great pain, becoming a delight, the ecstasy of being beyond all hope and of being thus enabled to look with scorn upon the author of hope. The blue eyes still gazed sadly with a soft smile of despair upon him. Gerard knew that in another moment he would not sink, faint, or fall, but that he would—oh, much worse!—he would smile. At this very instant a name—a familiar name, and one which the infernal worshippers had made frequent use of, but which he had never remarked before—struck his ear; the name of Christ. Where had he heard it? He could not tell. It was the name of a young man; he could remember that, and nothing more. Again the name sounded—"Christ." There was another word like Christ which seemed at some time to have brought an idea first of great suffering and then of great peace. Aye, peace, but no pleasure. No delight like this shed from these marvellous blue eyes. Again the name sounded—"Christ."
Ah! the other word was cross (croix). He remembered now; along thing with a short thing across it.
Was it that as he thought of these things the charm of the blue eyes and their great sadness lessened in intensity? We dare not say, but as some faint conception of what a cross was flitted through the Abbe's brain, although he could think of no prayer, of no distinct use of this cross, he drew his right hand slowly up, and feebly made the sign across his breast.
The vision vanished.
The men adoring ceased their clamor, and lay crouched up against each other as if some strong electric power had been taken from them, and great weakness had succeeded. But for a moment; and then they rose trembling and with loosened hands, and stood for an instant feebly gazing at the Abbe, who felt faint and exhausted, and heeded them not. With extraordinary presence of mind, the Prince walked quickly up to him, pushed him out of the door by which they had entered, followed him, and locked the door behind them, thus precluding the possibility of being immediately pursued by the others. Once in the next room, the Abbe and Pomerantseff paused for an instant to recover breath, for the swiftness of their flight had exhausted them, worn out as they both were mentally and physically; but during this brief interval the Prince, who appeared to be retaining his presence of mind by a merely mechanical effort, carefully replaced over his friend's eyes the bandage which the Abbe held tightly grasped in his hand. Then he led him on, and it was not until the cold air struck them that they noticed they had left their hats behind.
"N'importe!" muttered Pomerantseff. "It would be dangerous to return"; and hurrying the Abbe into the carriage which awaited them, he bade the coachman speed them away "au grand galop!"
Not a word was spoken; the Abbe lay back as one in a swoon, and heeded nothing until he felt the carriage stop, and the Prince uncovered his eyes and told him he had reached home. He alighted in silence, and passed into his house without a word. How he reached his apartment he never knew, but the following morning found him raging with fever and delirious. When he had sufficiently recovered, after the lapse of a few days, to admit of his reading the numerous letters awaiting his attention, one was put into his hand which had been brought on the second night after the one of the memorable seance. It ran as follows:
"JOCKEY CLUB, January 26, 186-.
"MON CHER ABBE: I am afraid our little adventure was too much for you; in fact, I myself was very unwell all yesterday, and nothing but a Russian bath has pulled me together. I can hardly wonder at this, however, for I have never in my life been present at so powerful a seance, and you may comfort yourself with the reflection that Son Altesse has never honored any one with his presence for so long a space of time before. Never fear about your illness; it is merely nervous exhaustion, and you will be well soon; but such evenings must not often be indulged in if you are not desirous of shortening your life. I shall hope to meet you at Mme. de Metternich's on Monday.
"Tout a vous,
Whether or no Gerard was sufficiently recovered to meet his friend at the Austrian embassy on the evening named, we do not know, nor does it concern us; but he is certainly enjoying excellent health now, and is no less charming than before his extraordinary adventure.
Such is the true story of a meeting with the devil in Paris not many years ago; a story true in every particular, as can be easily proved by a direct application to any of the persons concerned in it, for they are all living still. The key to the enigma we cannot find, for we certainly do not put faith in any of the theories of spiritualists; but that an apparition such as we have described did appear in the way and under the circumstances we have described, is a fact, and we must leave the satisfactory solution of the difficulty to more profound psychologists than ourselves.
ON READING SHAKESPEARE.
Probably no play of Shakespeare's, probably no other play or poem of a high degree of merit, is so much neglected as "Troilus and Cressida" is. I have met intelligent readers of Shakespeare, who thought themselves unusually well acquainted with his writings, and who were so, who understood him and delighted in him, but who yet had never read "Troilus and Cressida." They had, in one way and another, got the notion that it is a very inferior play, and not worth reading, or at least not to be read until after they were tired of all the others—a time which had not yet come. There seems to be a slur cast upon this play; the reason of which is its very undramatic character, and the consequent non-appearance of its name in theatrical records. No one has heard of any actor's or actress's appearance, even in the last century, as one of the personages in "Troilus and Cressida." Its name has not been upon the playbills for generations, although even "Love's Labor's Lost" has once in a while been performed. Hence it is almost unknown, except to the thorough Shakespearian readers, who are very few; fewer now, in proportion to the largely increased leisurely and instructed classes, than they were two hundred years ago, much to the shame of our vaunted popular education and diffusion of knowledge. And yet this neglected drama is one of its author's great works; in one respect his greatest. "Troilus and Cressida" is Shakespeare's wisest play in the way of worldly wisdom. It is filled choke-full of sententious, and in most cases slightly satirical revelations of human nature, uttered with a felicity of phrase and an impressiveness of metaphor that make each one seem like a beam of light shot into the recesses of man's heart. Such are these:
In the reproof of chance Lies the true proof of men.
The wound of peace is surety; Surety secure; but modest doubt is called The beacon of the wise.
What is aught, but as 'tis valued?
'Tis mad idolatry To make the service greater than the god.
A stirring dwarf we do allowance give Before a sleeping giant.
'Tis certain greatness once fall'n out with fortune Must fall out with men too; what the declin'd is He shall as soon read in the eyes of others As feel in his own fall; for men, like butterflies, Show not their mealy wings but to the summer; And not a man, for being simply man, Hath any honor.
Besides passages like these, there are others of which the wisdom is inextricably interwoven with the occasion. One would think that the wealth of such a mine would be daily passing from mouth to mouth as the current coin of speech; and yet of all Shakespeare's acknowledged plays, there are only two, "The Comedy of Errors" and "The Winter's Tale," which do not furnish more to our store of familiar quotations than this play does, rich though it is with Shakespeare's ripest thought and most splendid utterance. And yet by a strange compensating chance, it furnishes the most often quoted line; a line which not one in a million of those that use it ever saw where Shakespeare wrote it, or if they had any brains behind their eyes, they would not use it as they do. For by another strange chance it happens that this line is entirely perverted from the meaning which Shakespeare gave it. As it is constantly quoted, it is not Shakespeare's. The line is:
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
This has come to be always quoted with the meaning implied in the following indication of emphasis: "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." Shakespeare wrote no such sentimental twaddle. Least of all did he write it in this play, in which his pen "pierces to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." The line which has been thus perverted into an exposition of sentimental brotherhood among all mankind, is on the contrary one of the most cynical utterances of an undisputable moral truth, disparaging to the nature of all mankind, that ever came from Shakespeare's pen. Achilles keeps himself aloof from his fellow Greeks, and takes no part in the war, sure that his fame for valor will be untarnished. Ulysses contrives to provoke him into a discussion, and tells him that his great deeds will be forgotten and his fame fade into mere shadow, and that some new man will take his place, unless he does something from time to time to keep his glory bright. For men forget the great thing that was done, in favor of the less that is done now.
For time is like a fashionable host That slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand, And with his arms outstretched as he would fly, Grasps in the comer. Welcome ever smiles, And farewell goes out sighing. O let not virtue seek Remuneration for the thing it was; For beauty, wit, High birth, vigor of bone, desert in service, Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all To envious and calumniating time.
And then he immediately adds that there is one point on which all men are alike, one touch of human nature which shows the kindred of all mankind—that they slight familiar merit and prefer trivial novelty. The next lines to those quoted above are:
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin, That all with one consent praise new-born gauds. Though they are made and moulded of things past; And give to dust that is a little gilt More sand than gilt oe'rdusted.
The meaning is too manifest to need or indeed to admit a word of comment, and it is brought out by this emphasis: "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin"—that one touch of their common failing being an uneasy love of novelty. Was ever poet's or sage's meaning so perverted, so reversed! And yet it is hopeless to think of bringing about a change in the general use of this line and a cessation of its perversion to sentimental purposes, not to say an application of it as the scourge for which it was wrought; just as it is hopeless to think of changing by any demonstration of unfitness and unmeaningness a phrase in general use—the reason being that the mass of the users are utterly thoughtless and careless of the right or the wrong, the fitness or the unfitness, of the words that come from their mouths, except that they serve their purpose for the moment. That done, what care they? And what can we expect, when even the "Globe" edition of Shakespeare's works has upon its very title-page and its cover a globe with a band around it, on which is written this line in its perverted sense, that sense being illustrated, enforced, and deepened into the general mind by the union of the band-ends by clasped hands. I absolve, of course, the Cambridge editors of the guilt of this twaddling misuse of Shakespeare's line; it was a mere publisher's contrivance; but I am somewhat surprised that they should have even allowed it such sanction as it has from its appearance on the same title-page with their names.
The undramatic character of "Troilus and Cressida," which has been already mentioned, appears in its structure, its personages, and its purpose. We are little interested in the fate of its personages, not merely because we know what is to become of them, for that we know in almost any play which has an historical subject; but the play is constructed upon such a slight plot that it really has neither dramatic motive nor dramatic movement. The loves of "Troilus and Cressida" are of a kind which are interesting only to the persons directly involved in them; Achilles's sulking is of even less interest; and the death of Hector affects us only like a newspaper announcement of the death of some distinguished person, so little is he really involved in the action of the drama. There is also a singular lack of that peculiar characteristic of Shakespeare's dramatic style, the marked distinction and nice discrimination of the individual traits, mental and moral, of the various personages. Ulysses is the real hero of the play; the chief, or at least the great purpose of which is the utterance of the Ulyssean view of life; and in this play Shakespeare is Ulysses, or Ulysses Shakespeare. In all his other plays Shakespeare so lost his personal consciousness in the individuality of his own creations that they think and feel as well as act like real men and women other than their creator, so that we cannot truly say of the thoughts and feelings which they express, that Shakespeare says thus or so; for it is not Shakespeare who speaks, but they with his lips. But in Ulysses, Shakespeare, acting upon a mere hint, filling up a mere traditionary outline, drew a man of mature years, of wide observation, of profoundest cogitative power, one who knew all the weakness and all the wiles of human nature, and who yet remained with blood unbittered and soul unsoured—a man who saw through all shams and fathomed all motives, and who yet was not scornful of his kind, not misanthropic, hardly cynical except in passing moods; and what other man was this than Shakespeare himself? What had he to do when he had passed forty years but to utter his own thoughts when he would find words for the lips of Ulysses? And thus it is that "Troilus and Cressida" is Shakespeare's wisest play. If we would know what Shakespeare thought of men and their motives after he reached maturity, we have but to read this drama; drama it is, but with what other character who shall say? For, like the world's pageant, it is neither tragedy nor comedy, but a tragi-comic history, in which the intrigues of amorous men and light-o'-loves and the brokerage of panders are mingled with the deliberations of sages and the strife and the death of heroes.
The thoughtful reader will observe that Ulysses pervades the serious parts of the play, which is all Ulyssean in its thought and language. And this is the reason or rather the fact of the play's lack of distinctive characterization. For Ulysses cannot speak all the time that he is on the stage; and therefore the other personages, such as may, speak Ulyssean, with, of course, such personal allusion and peculiar trick as a dramatist of Shakespeare's skill could not leave them without for difference. For example, no two men could be more unlike in character than Achilles and Ulysses, and yet the former, having asked the latter what he is reading, he, uttering his own thought, says as follows with the subsequent reply:
Ulyss.—A strange fellow here Writes me: That man, how dearly ever parted, How much in having, or without or in, Cannot make boast to have that which he hath Nor feels not what he owes but by reflection, As when his virtues shining upon others Heat them, and they retort that heat again To the first giver.
Achil.—This is not strange, Ulysses. The beauty that is borne here in the face The bearer knows not, but commends itself To others' eyes; nor doth the eye itself, That most pure spirit of sense, behold itself, Not going from itself; but eye to eye opposed, Salutes each other with each other's form, For speculation turns not to itself Till it hath travelled and is mirror'd there Where it may see itself. This is not strange at all.
Now these speeches are made of the same metal and coined in the same mint; and they both of them have the image and superscription of William Shakespeare. No words or thoughts could be more unsuited to that bold, bloody egoist, "the broad Achilles," than the reply he makes to Ulysses; but here Shakespeare was merely using the Greek champion as a lay figure to utter his own thoughts, which are perfectly in character with the son of Autolycus. Ulysses thus flows over upon the whole serious part of the play. Agamemnon, Nestor, AEneus, and the rest all talk alike, and all like Ulysses. That Ulysses speaks for Shakespeare will, I think, be doubted by no reader who has reached the second reading of this play by the way which I have pointed out to him. And why, indeed, should Ulysses not speak for Shakespeare, or how could it be other than that he should? The man who had written "Hamlet," "King Lear," "Othello," and "Macbeth," if he wished to find Ulysses, had only to turn his mind's eye inward; and thus we have in this drama Shakespeare's only piece of introspective work.
But there is another personage who gives character to this drama, and who is of a very different sort. Thersites sits with Caliban high among Shakespeare's minor triumphs. He was brought in to please the mob. He is the Fool of the piece, fulfilling the functions of Touchstone, and Launce, and Launcelot, and Costard. As the gravediggers were brought into "Hamlet" for the sake of the groundlings, so Thersites came into "Troilus and Cressida." As if that he might leave no form of human utterance ungilded by his genius, Shakespeare in Thersites has given us the apotheosis of blackguardism and billingsgate. Thersites is only a railing rascal. Some low creatures are mere bellies with no brain. Thersites is merely mouth, but this mouth has just enough coarse brain above it to know a wise man and a fool when he sees them. But the railings of this deformed slave are splendid. Thersites is almost as good as Falstaff. He is of course a far lower organization intellectually, and somewhat lower, perhaps, morally. He is coarser in every way; his humor, such as he has, is of the grossest kind; but still his blackguardism is the ideal of vituperation. He is far better than Apemantus in "Timon of Athens," for there is no hypocrisy in him, no egoism, and, comfortable trait in such a personage, no pretence of gentility. For good downright "sass" in its most splendid and aggressive form, there is in literature nothing equal to the speeches of Thersites.
"Troilus and Cressida" is also remarkable for its wide range of style, because of which it is a play of great interest to the student of Shakespeare, who here adapted his style to the character of the matter in hand. The lighter parts remind us of his earlier manner; the graver are altogether in his later. He did this unconsciously, or almost unconsciously, we may be sure. None the less, however, is the play therefore valuable in a critical point of view, but rather the more so. It is a standing and an undeniable warning to us not to lean too much upon any one special trait of style in estimating the time in Shakespeare's life at which a play was produced. Moreover it illustrates the natural course of style development, showing that it is not only gradual, but not by regular degrees; that is, that a writer does not pass at one period absolutely from one style to another, dropping his previous manner and taking on another, but that he will at one time unconsciously recur to his former manner or manners, and at a late period show traces of his early manner. Strata of his old fashion thrust themselves up through the newer formation. "Troilus and Cressida" is so remarkable in this respect that the chief of the absolute-period critics, the Rev. Mr. Fleay, has been obliged to invent a most extraordinary theory to account for it. His view is that there are three plots interwoven, each of which is distinct in manner of treatment, and, moreover, that each of these was composed at a different time from the other two. He would have us believe that the parts embodying the Troilus and Cressida story were written in Shakespeare's earliest period, those concerning Hector in his middle period, and the Ajax parts in the last. That these three stories were interwoven is manifest; but they came naturally together in this Greek historical play—for it is that—and their interweaving was hardly to have been avoided; the manner of each is not distinct from that of the other, although there is, with likeness, a noticeable unlikeness; but the notion that therefore Shakespeare first wrote the Troilus and Cressida part as a play, and then years afterward added the Hector part, and again years afterward the Ajax and Ulysses part, seems to me only a monstrous contrivance of an honest and an able man in desperate straits to make his theory square with fact. As to detail upon this subject, I shall only notice one point. Tag-rhymes, or rhymed couplets ending a scene or a speech in blank verse or in prose, are regarded by the metre-critics (and justly within reason) as marks of an early date of composition. Now in "Troilus and Cressida" these abound. It contains more of them than any other play, except one or two of the very earliest. The important point, however, is that these rhymes appear no less in the Ulysses and Ajax scenes of the play than in the others—a sufficient warning against putting absolute trust in such evidence.
Among those few of Shakespeare's plays which are least often read is "All's Well that Ends Well." This one, however, is to the earnest student one of the most interesting of the thirty-seven which bear his name; not only because it contains some of his best and most thoughtful work, but because, being Shakespeare's all through, it is written in two distinct styles—styles so distinct that there can be no doubt that as it has come down to us it is the product of two distinct periods of his dramatic life, and those the most distant, the first and the last. Its singularity in this respect gives it a peculiar value to the student of Shakespeare's style and of his mental development. There is not an interweaving of styles as in "Troilus and Cressida"; the two are distinctly separable; and there is external historical evidence which supports the internal.
We have a record in Francis Meres's "Palladis Tamia" of a play by Shakespeare called "Love's Labor's Won"; and there is no reasonable doubt that that was the first name of "All's Well that Ends Well." As the "Palladis Tamia" was published in 1598, this play was produced before that year, and all the evidence, internal and external, goes to show that Shakespeare wrote it soon after "Love's Labor's Lost," and as a counterpart to that comedy. The difference of its style in various parts had been remarked upon in general terms; but I believe that this difference was first specially indicated in the following passage, which I cannot do better here than to quote from the introduction to my edition of the play published in 1857; and I do so with the greater freedom because the particular traits which it discriminated have been lately, in the present year, insisted upon by the Rev. Mr. Fleay, in his very useful and suggestive, but not altogether to be trusted "Shakespeare Manual," to which I have before referred.
"It is to be observed that passages of rhymed couplets, in which the thought is somewhat constrained and its expression limited by the form of the verse, are scattered freely through the play, and that these are found side by side with passages of blank verse in which the thought, on the contrary, so entirely dominates the form, and overloads and weighs it down, as to produce the impression that the poet, in writing them, was almost regardless of the graces of his art, and merely sought an expression of his ideas in the most compressed and elliptical form. The former trait is characteristic of his youthful style; the latter marks a certain period of his maturer years. Contracted words, which Shakespeare used more freely in his later than in his earlier works, abound; and in some passages words are used in an esoteric sense, which is distinctive of the poet's style about the time when 'Measure for Measure' was produced. Note, for instance, the use of 'succeed' in 'owe and succeed thy weakness,' in Act II., Sc. 4 of that play, and in 'succeed thy father in manners,' Act I., Sc. 1 of this. It is to be observed also that the advice given by the Countess to Bertram when he leaves Rousillon is so like that of Polonius to Laertes in a similar situation, that either the latter is an expansion of the former, or the former a reminiscence of the latter; and as the passage is written in the later style, the second supposition appears the more probable. Finally, it is worthy of remark that both the French officers who figure in this play as First Lord and Second Lord are somewhat strangely named Dumain, and that in 'Love's Labor's Lost' Dumain is also the name of that one of the three attendants and brothers in love of the King who has a post in the army; which, when taken in connection with other circumstances, is at least a hint of some relation between the two plays."
If the reader who has gone thoughtfully through the plays in the course which I have indicated will take up this one, he will find in the very first scene evidence and illustration of these views. It is almost entirely in prose, which itself shows the weight of Shakespeare's mature hand. The first blank verse is the speech of the Countess, in which she gives a mother's counsel to Bertram as he is setting out for the wars, as is pointed out above, and which is unmistakably of the "Hamlet" period. Then comes a speech by Helen beginning,
O were that all! I think not on my father: And these great tears grace his remembrance more Than those I shed for him—
and ending with this charming passage, referring to the growth of her love for Bertram:
'Twas pretty, though a plague, To see him every hour; to sit and draw His arched brows, his hawking eye, his curls In our heart's table; heart too capable Of every line and trick of his sweet favor: But now he's gone, and my idolatrous fancy Must sanctify his reliques. Who comes here?
It is needless to say to the advanced student of Shakespeare's style that this is in his later manner. A little further on is Helen's speech to the detestable Parolles, beginning with the mutilated line, "Not my virginity yet," which is followed by some ten, in which she pours out in Euphuistic phrase her love for Bertram, saying that he has in her "a mother, and a mistress, and a friend, a counsellor, a traitress, and a dear"; and yet further,
His humble ambition, proud humility, His jarring concord, and his discord dulcet, His faith, his sweet disaster, with a world Of pretty, fond, adoptious Christendoms That blinking Cupid gossips.
This will remind the reader of Scott's Euphuist, Sir Piercie Shafton, who, if I remember aright, uses some of these very phrases, in which Shakespeare has beaten Lilly at his own weapons, and made his affected phraseology the vehicle of the touching utterance of real feeling. "Euphues" was published in 1580, when Shakespeare was only sixteen years old; and this passage, although it may have been written or perhaps altered later, was probably a part of the play as it was first produced. The scene ends with the following speech by Helen, which, for its peculiar characteristics, is worth quoting entire. The reader who will compare it with "Love's Labor's Lost" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will have not a moment's doubt as to the time when it was written:
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie Which we ascribe to heaven: the fated sky Gives us free scope, only doth backward pull Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull. What power is it which mounts my love so high That makes me see and cannot feed mine eye? The mightiest space in fortune nature brings To join like likes and kiss like native things. Impossible be strange attempts to those That weigh their pains in sense and do suppose What hath been cannot be: whoever strove To show her merit that did miss her love? The king's disease—my project may deceive me, But my intents are fixed and will not leave me.
Besides its formal construction and its rhyme, this passage is overmuch afflicted with youngness to be accepted as the product of any other than Shakespeare's very earliest period. Of like quality to this are other passages scattered through the play. For example, the Countess's speech, Act I., Sc. 3, beginning, "Even so it was with me"; all the latter part of Act II., Sc. 1, from Helen's speech, "What I can do," etc., to the end, seventy lines; passages in the third scene of this act, which the reader cannot now fail at once to detect for himself; Helen's letter, Act III., Sc. 4, and Parolles's, Act IV., Sc. 3; and various passages in the last act. Shakespeare, I have no doubt, wrote this play at first nearly all in rhyme in the earliest years of his dramatic life, and afterward, late in his career, possibly on two occasions, rewrote it and gave it a new name; using prose, to save time and labor, in those passages the elevation of which did not require poetical treatment, and in those which were suited to such treatment giving us true, although not highly finished specimens of his grand style.
A few of the plays now remain unnoticed; but our purpose is accomplished without further particular remark. The reader who has gone thus far with me needs me no longer as a guide. The Roman plays, "Coriolanus," "Julius Caesar," and "Antony and Cleopatra," particularly the last, should now receive his careful attention. In "The Winter's Tale," "The Tempest," and "Henry VIII." he will find the very last productions of Shakespeare's pen, and in the first and the third of these he will find marks of hasty work both in the versification and in the construction; but the touch of the master is unmistakable quite through them all, and "The Tempest" is one of the most perfect of his works in all respects. No true lover of Shakespeare should neglect the Sonnets, although many do neglect them. They are inferior to the plays; but only to them.
As to helps to the understanding of Shakespeare, those who can understand him at all need none except a good critical edition. And by a good critical edition I mean only one which gives a good text, with notes where they are needed upon obscure constructions, obsolete words or phrases, manners and customs, and the like. Of the plays in the Clarendon Press series, "The Merchant of Venice," "Richard II.," "Macbeth," "Hamlet," and "King Lear," better editions cannot be had, particularly for readers inexperienced in verbal criticism. Those who find any difficulty which the notes to those editions do not explain may be pretty sure that, with the exception of a very few passages the corruption of which is admitted on all hands, the trouble is not with Shakespeare or the editor. Shakespeare read in the way which I have indicated, and with the help of such an edition, has a high educating value, and in particular will give the reader an insight into the English language, if not a mastery of it, that is worth a course of all the text-books of grammar and rhetoric that have been written ten times over. As to editions, I shall give only one caution. Do not get Dyce's. Mr. Dyce was a scholar, a man of fine taste, most thoroughly read in English literature, particularly in that of the Elizabethan period. He was a man for whom I had a very high respect, and whom I had reason to regard with a somewhat warmer feeling than that of a mere literary acquaintance. This and my deference to his age and his position prevented me from saying during his life what there is no reason that I should not say now—that in my opinion he was one of the most unsuccessful of Shakespeare's editors. His edition is one of the worst that has been published in the last century, both for its text and, except as to their learning, for its notes. With all my deferential respect for him, I was prepared for this result before the appearance of the first of his three editions. Being in correspondence with him, and on such terms that I could make such a request, I asked him to send me some sheets of his edition while it was passing through the press. He replied that he could not do this; but the reason that he gave was, not any unwillingness to confide them to me, but that it was then impossible, because after his edition was half struck off he had cancelled the greater part of it on account of changes in his opinions as to the reading of so many passages! And this after he was well in years; after having passed his life in the study of Elizabethan literature; and after having edited Beaumont and Fletcher! I was never more amazed. Such a man could have no principles of criticism. How could he guide others who after such study was not sure of his own way? With all his knowledge of the literature and the literary history of the Elizabethan period, he seemed to lack the power of putting himself in sympathy with Shakespeare as he wrote. Hence the crudity and incongruity of his text, his vacillating opinions, and the weakness and poverty of his annotation.
Of criticism of what has been called the higher kind, I recommend the reading of very little, or better, none at all. Read Shakespeare; seek aid to understand his language, if that be in any way obscure to you; but that once comprehended, apprehension of his purpose and meaning will come untold to those who can attain it in any way. In my own edition I avoided as much as possible the introduction of aesthetic criticism, not because I felt incapable of writing it; for it is easy work; on the contrary, I freely essayed it when it was necessary as an aid to the settlement of the text, or of like questions; and by its use I think that I succeeded in establishing some points of importance. But in my judgment the duty of an editor is performed when he puts the reader, as nearly as possible, in the same position, for the apprehension of his author's meaning, that he would have occupied if he had been contemporary with him and had received from him a correct copy of his writings. More than this seems to me to verge upon impertinence. Upon this point I find myself supported by William Aldis Wright, who is in my judgment the ablest of all the living editors of Shakespeare; who brings to his task a union of scholarship, critical judgment, and common sense, which is very rare in any department of literature, and particularly in Shakespearian criticism, and whose labors in this department of letters are small and light in comparison with the graver studies in which he is constantly engaged. He, in the preface to his lately published edition of "King Lear" in the Clarendon Press series, says: "It has been objected to the editions of Shakespeare's plays in the Clarendon Press series that the notes are too exclusively of a verbal character, and that they do not deal with aesthetic, or as it is called, the higher criticism. So far as I have had to do with them, I frankly confess that aesthetic notes have been deliberately and intentionally omitted, because one main object in these editions is to induce those for whom they are especially designed to read and study Shakespeare himself, and not to become familiar with opinions about him. Perhaps, too, it is because I cannot help experiencing a certain feeling of resentment when I read such notes, that I am unwilling to intrude upon others what I should regard myself as impertinent. They are in reality too personal and objective, and turn the commentator into a showman. With such sign-post criticism I have no sympathy. Nor do I wish to add to the awful amazement which must possess the soul of Shakespeare when he knows of the manner in which his works have been tabulated, and classified, and labelled with a purpose, after the most approved method, like modern tendenzschriften. Such criticism applied to Shakespeare is nothing less than gross anachronism."
Not a little of the Shakespearian criticism of this kind that exists is the mere result of an effort to say something fine about what needs no such gilding, no such prism-play of light to enhance or to bring out its beauties. I will not except from these remarks much of what Coleridge himself has written about Shakespeare. But the German critics whom he emulated are worse than he is. Avoid them. The German pretence that Germans have taught us folk of English blood and speech to understand Shakespeare is the most absurd and arrogant that could be set up. Shakespeare owes them nothing; and we have received from them little more than some maundering mystification and much ponderous platitude. Like the western diver, they go down deeper and stay down longer than other critics, but like him too they come up muddier. Above all of them, avoid Ulrici and Gervinus. The first is a mad mystic, the second a very literary Dogberry, endeavoring to comprehend all vagrom men, and bestowing his tediousness upon the world with a generosity that surpasses that of his prototype. Both of them thrust themselves and their "fanned and winnowed opinions" upon him in such an obtrusive way that if he could come upon the earth again and take his pen in his hand, I would not willingly be in the shoes of either. He would hand them down to posterity the laughing stock of men for ever.
Not Shakespeare only has suffered from this sort of criticism. The great musicians fare ill at their hands. One of them, Schlueter, writing of Mozart, says of his E flat, G minor, C (Jupiter) symphonies:
It is evident that these three magnificent works—produced consecutively and at short intervals—are the embodiment of one train of thought pursued with increasing ardor; so that taken as a whole they form a grand trilogy.... These three grandest of Mozart's symphonies (the first lyrical, the second tragic-pathetic, and the third of ethical import) correspond to his three greatest operas, "Figaro," "Don Giovanni," and "Die Zauberfloete."
Now, I venture to say, that there is no such consecutive train of thought, and no such correspondence. Ethical import in the Jupiter and in the "Zauberfloete," and correspondence between them! Mozart did not evolve musical elephants out of his moral consciousness. But a German professor of esthetik is not happy until he has discovered a trilogy and an inner life. Those found, he goes off with ponderous serenity into the ewigkeit.
I have been asked, apropos of these articles, to give some advice as to the formation of Shakespeare clubs. The best thing that can be done about that matter is to let it alone entirely. According to my observation, Shakespeare clubs do not afford their members any opportunities of study or even of enjoyment of his works which are not attainable otherwise. And how should they do so except by the formation of libraries for the use of their members? In this respect they may be of some use, but not of much. Few books, a very few, are necessary for the intelligent and earnest student of Shakespeare, and those almost every such student can obtain for himself. As I have said, a good critical edition is all that is required; and whoever desires to wander into the wilderness of Shakespearian commentary will find in the public libraries ample opportunities of doing so. I have observed that those who read Shakespeare most and understand him best do not use even critical editions, except for occasional reference, but take the text by itself, pure and simple. An edition with a good text, brief introductions to each play, giving only ascertained facts, and a few notes, glossological and historical, at the foot of the page, is still a desideratum. Quiet reading with such an edition as this at hand will do more good than all the Shakespeare clubs ever established have done. I have seen something of such associations; and I have observed in them a tendency on one hand to a feeble and fussy literary antiquarianism, and on the other to conviviality; a thing not bad in itself, and indeed, within bounds, much better than the other; but which has as little to do as that has (and it could not have less) with an intelligent study of Shakespeare. There is hardly anything less admirable to a reasonable creature than the assemblage at stated times of a number of semi-literary people to potter over Shakespeare and display before each other their second-hand enthusiasm about "the bard of Avon," as they generally delight to call him. Now, a true lover of Shakespeare never calls him the bard of Avon, or a bard of anything; and he reads him o' nights and ponders over him o' days while he is walking, or smoking, or at night again while he is waking in his bed. If he is too poor to buy a copy offhand, he saves up his pennies till he can get one, and he does not trouble himself about the commentators or the mulberry tree. He would not give two pence to sit in a chair made of it; for he knows that he could not tell it from any other chair, and that it would not help him to understand or to enjoy one line in "Hamlet," or "Lear," or "Othello," or "As You Like It," or "The Tempest." These remarks have no reference of course to such societies as the Shakespeare Societies of London, past and present. They are associations of scholars for the purpose of original investigations, and which they print for the use of their subscribers, and for the republication of valuable and scarce books and papers having a bearing upon Shakespeare and the literary history of his time. We have no such material in this country. Whoever wishes to go profoundly into the study of Shakespearian, or rather of Elizabethan literature, would do well to obtain a set of the old Shakespeare Society's publications, and to become a subscriber to the other Shakespeare society, which is doing good thorough work. Clubs might well be formed for the obtaining of these books and others, for the use of their members who cannot afford or who do not care to buy them for their own individual property; although a book really owned is, I cannot say exactly why, worth more to a reader than one belonging to some one else. But all other Shakespeare clubs are mere vanity. The true Shakespeare lover is a club unto himself.
RICHARD GRANT WHITE.
 I. e., gifted, endowed with parts.
 See "Shakespeare's Scholar," passim.
 Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and one of the editors of the Cambridge edition.
A LEGEND OF KING ARTHUR'S TIME.
Dying afar in Brittany, The gallant Tristram lay; His gentle bride's sweet ministry, Her tender touch and way, That erstwhile brought the rest he sought, No more held soothing sway.
The naming of her tuneful name, Isoude—so sweet to hear Because its music was the same With one long holden dear— Now, like a bell discordant, fell, And brought but mocking cheer.
Her eyne so blue, with lids so white, Her tresses from their snood, That rippling ambered all the light About her where she stood, Served only now to cloud his brow Who longed for lost Isoude—
Isoude, who charmed him once when storm Had blown his ship ashore On Ireland's coast; Isoude, whose form Bewitched him more and more, As mem'ry came, his love to flame, When hope, alas! was o'er:
Isoude, who sailed with him the sea Across to Cornwall land, To marry Mark, whose treachery Did Tristram's faith command To win her grace for kingly place, And his own heart withstand.
On sultry deck becalmed they pine; Careless, their thirst to ease, A philter—mixt for bridal wine— Her lip beguiles, and his: O subtle draught unconscious quaffed! They drained it to the lees—
Until in Tristram's knightly form All joy for her seemed blent; Until her cheek could only warm Beneath his gaze intent; Until her heart sought him apart, Whoever came or went;
Until the potion did beget An all-enduring spell; Albeit Cornwall's king now met And liked her fairness well, And claimed her hand, while through the land Rang sound of marriage bell;
Until, as fragrance from a flower, True love outbrake control, And dropped its sweetness as a shower Of pearls, that threadless roll To find their rest in some near nest; Her home, Sir Tristram's soul!
And he, though frequent jousts he won; Though many a valiant deed Of prowess made his fame outrun The claim of knightly creed; Though maidens oft their glances soft Bestowed in tenderest meed;
Though Brittany upon him prest A bride, in gratitude For service done; and though the quest Of sacred grail subdued His full heart-beat of smothered heat— He loved but Queen Isoude!
And now with holy vows all tossed Of fever's frantic sway— As mariner whose bark is crossed Upon a peaceful way By winds that lure from purpose pure And well-meant plans bewray—
He bade a trusty servitor To Cornwall's queen forthwith. "Take this," he said, "and show to her How great my languor, sith This signet's round will not be found To bear one hurted lith.
"Say that Sir Tristram prays her aid, And so he prays not vain, Let sails of silken white be made, Whose gleam shall heal my pain, As hither borne some favoring morn, Love claims his own again!
"But if she yield no heed to these Fond cravings of love's breath, Then bearing on the burdened breeze Let sail that shadoweth, Of darkest dark, beshroud the bark, A presage of my death."
So spake the Lord of Lyonesse, And bode his joy or bale; While jealous of her right to bless, The wife Isoude, grown pale As buds of light that shrink from night, Made sad and lonely wail:
"Alas! all one the loss to me, My lord alive or dead, If life of his by sorcery Of this fair queen be fed." Then adding, "Be her answer nay, Hope yet to hope is wed."
She scanned the sea. On waves of balm A white sail of rare glow Came rounding to the harbor's calm With fullest promise—lo! Bleak winds arise, as false she cries, "A black sail entereth slow."
Too weak to battle with his grief, Sir Tristram breathed a sigh— "Alack, that Isoude's sweet relief Should fail me where I lie: Sith not for me her face to see, Is but to droop and die."
Black sails are hoisted now in truth! They wing two forms to rest: For Cornwall's queen a-cold, in ruth, Fell prone on Tristram's breast; And Cornwall's knight for kinsman's right Of shrine had made request.
A letter lay upon the bier, And this the word it bare: "O love is sweet, O love is dear, And followeth everywhere Whoso has drained the chalice stained With its red wine and rare.
"O love is dear, O love is sweet, And yet, of faith's decree Would Honor quench beneath stern feet Love's bloom if that need be. O King, one wills. But Love distils His philters fatefully!"
Then did the King in penitence Weep dole for these two dead. Some slight remorse had pricked his sense That he through wile had wed His best knight's love; alas, to prove Such end, so ill bestead!
In royal crypt he bade the twain Be laid; and there a vine, O'er which the murderous scythe was vain, Sprang up the graves to twine, Defying death with its green breath: True plant of seed divine!
MARY B. DODGE.
BY JUSTIN MCCARTHY.
The little town of Dukes-Keeton, in one of the more northern of the midland counties, had in its older days two great claims to consideration. One was a park, the other a sweetmeat. The noble family whose name had passed through many generations of residence at the place had always left their great park so freely open to every one, that it came to be like the common property of the public, and the town had grown into fame by the manufacture of the sweetmeat which bore its name almost everywhere in the track of the meteor-flag of England. But as time went on other places took to manufacturing the sweetmeat so much better, and selling it so much more successfully than "Keeton," as the town was commonly called, could do, that "Keeton" itself had long since retired from the business, and was content to import the delicacy which still bore its own name in consignments of canisters from Manchester or London. During many years the heir of the noble family had deserted the park, and absolutely never came near it or near England even, and everything that gave the town a distinct reason for existence seemed to be passing rapidly into tradition. It had lain out of the track of the railway system for a long time, and when the railway system at length enclosed it in its arms, the attention seemed to have come too late. All the heat of life appeared to have chilled out of Dukes-Keeton in the mean time, and it lay now between two railways almost as inanimate and hopeless a lump as the child to whom the Erl-king's touch is fatal in his father's arms.
The park, with its huge palace-like, barrack-like house, not a castle, and too great to be called merely a hall, lies almost immediately outside the town. From streets and shops the visitor passes straightway through the gates of the great enclosure. Every stranger who has seen the house is taken at once to see another object of interest.
In the centre of the park was a broad, clear space, made by the felling and removing of every tree, until it spread there sharp and hard as a burnt-out patch in a forest. Gravel and small shells made the pavement of this space, and thus formed a new contrast with the turf, the grasses, and the underwood of the park all around. In the midst of this open space there rose a large circular building: a tower low in height when the bulk enclosed by its circumference was considered, and standing on a great square platform of solid masonry with steps on each of its sides. The tower itself reminded one of the tomb of Cecilia Metella, or some other of the tombs that still stand near Rome. It was in fact the mausoleum which it had pleased the father of the present owner to have erected for himself during his lifetime. He lavished money on it, cared nothing for the cost of materials and labor, planned it out himself, watched every detail, and stood by the workmen as they toiled. Within he had prepared a lordly reception-room for his dead body when he should come to die. A superb sarcophagus of porphyry, fit to have received the remains of a Caesar, was there. When the work was done and all was ready, the lonely owner visited it every day, unlocked its massive gate, and went in, and sat sometimes for hours in his own mausoleum. He was growing insane, people thought, in these later days, and they counted on his soon becoming an actual madman. So far, however, he showed no greater madness than in wasting his money on a huge tomb, and wasting so much of his time in visiting it prematurely. The tomb proved a vanity in a double sense. For the noble owner was seized with a sudden mania for travel, and resolved to go round the world. Somewhere in mid ocean he was attacked by fever, or what alarmed people called the plague, and he died, and his body had to be committed without much delay or ceremonial to the sea. He had built his monument to no purpose. He was never to occupy it. It stood a vast and solid gibe at the vanity of its founder.
Over the great gate through which the mausoleum was entered were three heads sculptured in stone. One was that of a man in the prime of manhood, with lips and eyebrows contracted and puckered, forehead wrinkled, eyes full of anxious strain, all telling of care, of pain, of sleepless struggle against difficulty, watchfulness to ward off danger. This was Life. The next was the face of the same man with the eyes closed and the cheeks sunken, and the expression of one who had fallen into sleep from pain—the struggle and agony gone indeed, but their shadow still resting on the brows and the lips: and that of course was Death. The third piece of carving showed the same face still, but now with clear eyes looking broadly and brightly forward, and with features all noble, serene, and glad. This was Eternity. These three faces were the wonder and admiration of the neighborhood, and had been for now some years back employed to solve the problem of existence for all the little lads and lasses of Keeton who might otherwise have failed sometimes to see the harmonious purpose working in all things. The sculptor had it all his own way, and took care that Life should have the worst of it. Keeton was in almost all its conditions a place of rather sleepy contentment, and its people could be trusted to take just as much of the moral as was good for them, and not to carry to extremes the lesson as to the discomfort and dissatisfaction of the probationary life-period. Otherwise there might perhaps be a chance that impressionable, not to say morbid, persons would desire to hurry very rapidly through the dark and anxious vestibule of life in order to get into the broad bright temple of Eternity.
Some thought like this was passing through the mind of Miss Minola Grey, who sat on the steps of the tomb and looked up into the faces illustrative of man's struggle and final success. Life had long been wearing a hard and difficult appearance to her, and she would perhaps have been glad enough sometimes if she could have got into the haven of quiet waters which, in the minds of so many people and in so many symbolic representations, is made to stand for Eternity. She was a handsome, graceful girl, rather tall, fair-haired, with deep bluish gray eyes which seemed to darken as they looked earnestly at any one—eyes which might be described in Matthew Arnold's words as "too expressive to be blue, too lovely to be gray"—with a broad forehead, from which the hair was thrown back in disregard of passing fashions. Perhaps it was her attitude, as she leaned her chin upon her hand and looked up at the mausoleum—perhaps it was the presence of that gloomy building itself—that made her face seem like an illustration of melancholy. Certainly her face was pale and a little wanting in fulness, and the lips were of the kind that one can always think of as tremulous with emotion of some kind. This was a beautiful summer evening, and all the park around was green, sunny, and glad. The dry bare spot on which the tomb was built seemed like a gray and withering leaf on a bright branch; and the figure of the girl was more in keeping with the melancholy shadow of the mausoleum than the joyousness of the sun and the trees and the whole scene all around.
Indeed, there was a good deal of melancholy in the girl's mind at that moment. She was taking leave of the place: had come to say it a farewell. That park had been her playground, her studio, her stage, her world of fancy and romance and poetry since her infancy. She had driven her brother as a horse there, and had played with him at hunting lions. She had studied landscape drawing there from the days when a half staggery stroke with some blotches out of it was supposed to represent a tree, and a thing shaped like the trade-mark on Mr. Bass's beer bottles stood for a mountain. As she grew up she came there to read and to idle and to think. There she revelled in all the boundless fancies and extravagant ambitions of a clever, half-poetic child. There she was in turn the heroine of every book that delighted her, and the heroine of stories which had never been put into print. Heroes of surpassing beauty, strength, courage, and devotion had rambled under these trees for years with her, nor had the new-comer's presence ever been made a cause of jealousy or complaint by the one whom his coming displaced. They were a strange procession of all complexions and garbs. Achilles the golden-haired had been with her in his day, and so had the melancholy Master of Ravenswood: and the young Djalma, the lover of Adrienne of the "Juif Errant," forgotten of English girls to-day; and Nello, the proud gondolier lad with the sweet voice, who was loved by the mother and the daughter of the Aldinis; and the unnamed youth who went mad for Maud; and Henry Esmond, and Stunning Warrington, and Jane Eyre's Rochester, and ever so many else. Each and all of these in turn loved her and was passionately loved by her, and all had done great things for her; and for each she had done far greater things. She had made them victorious, crowned them with laurels, died for them. It was a peculiarity of her temperament that when she read some pathetic story it was not at the tragic passages that her tears came. It was not the deaths that touched her most. It was when she read of bold and generous things suddenly done, of splendid self-sacrifice, of impossible rescue and superhuman heroism, that she could not keep down her feelings, and was glad when only the watching, untelltale trees could see the tears in her eyes.
She had, however, two heroes chief over all the rest, whose story she found it impossible to keep apart, and whom she blended commonly into one odd compound. These were Hamlet and Alceste, the "Misanthrope" of Moliere. It was sometimes Alceste who offered to be buried quick with Ophelia in the grave; and it was often Hamlet who interjected his scraps of poetic cynicism between the pretty and scandalous prattlings of Celimene and her petticoaterie. But perhaps Alceste came nearest to the heart of our young maid as she grew up. She said to herself over and over again that "C'est n'estimer rien qu'estimer tout le monde." She refused "d'un coeur la vaste complaisance qui ne fait de merite aucune difference," and declared that "pour le trancher net l'ami du genre humain n'est point du tout mon fait." No doubt there was unconscious or only half conscious affectation in this, as there is in the ways of almost all young people who are fond of reading; and her way of thinking herself a girl-Alceste would probably have vanished with other whims, or been supplanted by fancies of imitation caught from other models, if everything had gone well with her. But several causes conspired as she grew into a woman to make her think very seriously that Alceste was not wrong in his general estimate of men and their merits. She was intensely fond of her mother, and when her mother died her father married again, his second wife being a young woman who put him under the most absolute control, being not by any means an ill-natured person, but only strong-willed, serene, and stupid. Then her brother, to whom she was devoted, and who was her absolute confidant, went away to Canada, declaring he would not stand a stepmother, and that as soon as his sister grew old enough to put away domestic control he would send for her; and he soon got married and became a prominent member of the Dominion Legislature, and in none of his not over frequent letters said a word about his promise to send for her. Now, her father was some time dead; her stepmother had married Mr. Saulsbury, an elderly Nonconformist minister, who was shocked at all the ways of Alceste's admirer, and with whom she could not get on. It would take a very sweet and resigned nature to make one who had had these experiences absolutely in love with the human race, and especially with men; and Alceste accordingly became more dear than ever to Miss Grey.